Filed under: Bands, Narc | Tags: Calexico, Cat Power, Chilly Gonzalez, Lee "Scratch" Perry", Narc, Stealing Sheep, Talibam, The Orb
Cat Power – Sun (Matador)
It’s tough being a fan. You don’t want the object of your fandom to stagnate but neither do you want them to make a stylistic wrong turn. Somehow, with her new album Sun, Cat Power has done both and it’s a bit of a disappointment. She still has a honeyed, gorgeous, warm summer’s day of a voice. But the songs manage to be a little too obvious, and the nods to electronic music – especially the quasi-disco chugger Ruin – seem a little bit hackneyed and dated without adding much. There are some standouts (Always On My Own is deliciously woozy) and it’s still better than 90% of the records you’ll hear this year, but it’s far from her best.
Chilly Gonzales – Solo Piano II (Gentle Threat)
Chilly Gonzales –The Entertainist, the record breaking pianist, the man for all reasons – is back with his second album of solo piano pieces, eight years after the last. In a ridiculously varied career, nothing Gonzales does should come as much of a surprise, but the quality and flat out sophistication of the pieces here tests that theory. Some pieces are gentle and simple, others more melodically or rhythmically complex, and there are hints of classical and jazz – Keith Jarrett is obviously an influence – without it ever sounding merely bland or tasteful. Like the man himself said, sometimes it’s just time to shut up and play the piano.
The Orb Ft Lee Scratch Perry – The Orbserver In The Star House (Cooking Vinyl)
I own upwards of 25 Perry albums and even I’m forced to admit he’s just phoning it in now. I’m sure The Orb (Alex Paterson and Thomas Fehlmann this time out) were chuffed to be working with him, but I suspect Scratch just saw t as another payday for standing at the mike rhyming ‘moon’ with ‘June’ and ‘madman’ with fucking everything. The album starts promisingly – Ball Of Fire has a dirty bashment bounce- but everything goes downhill from there. Tired digidub meets tiresome wackiness. And as for the horrible Police & Thieves version.. Sheesh. This album would have been past its sell by date 20 years ago, now it’s just a disgrace.
Calexico – Algiers (City Slang)
Be careful what you wish for, someone wise once said. I used to listen to Calexico albums and wish they had more great songs and less desert-jazz noodling. Well, Algiers has minimal noodling and a handful of great songs but still washes over you somewhat. There’s little sign of the influence of New Orleans where they recorded it, the sound still built from country shuffle and mariachi flourish. To be frank, it’s all a little polite and restrained (apart from Sinner In The Sea, which is like a Cormac McCarthy book in song form). They still sound like the soundtrack to the best western you’ve never seen but along with the noodling they’ve also lost a little a sparkle, some of that old desert magic.
Stealing Sheep – Into The Diamond Sun (Heavenly)
This album has me beat. I want to loathe it – as a bitter old cynic, Stealing Sheep push all the wrong buttons: twee psychfolk from some impossibly talented and willowy cosmic scousers with face paint and headbands; like a trio of Joanna Newsom pixie girls coming to take you dancing through the magic mountain mist. Bastards. But fuck, it gets under your skin and just won’t quit. Playing the comparison game, think a blend of Psapp, Jonny & Lucy and Tunng: gorgeous harmonies, inventive and unusual arrangements, an underlying folky strum. The whole album feels like you’re tumbling headlong down a grassy hill on a sunny day – euphoric, giddy, bewildering, but with a slight sense of nausea at the end.
4/5 (bloody hippies!)
Talibam! – Puff Up The Volume
In an ideal world, music should stand or fall by its own merits, but somehow knowing that Talibam! are (an admittedly entertaining) ESP-signed, Wire magazine-approved quirky jazzbo duo makes the fact that they’ve made a ‘no school’ hip hop album seem just a bit… wanky, somehow. At its best, it recalls the potty mouthed flow of someone like MC Paul Barman, and tracks like Puff Up The Volume are amusing for a minute or two, but mostly it seems like a couple of over-trained musos with carefully stupid hair trying to show us just how easy it is to make hip-hop. And failing. No amount of chanting “I’m tapping that ass” over frenzied percussion and studio in-jokes makes this anything other than an extended sneer. Great fucking name though
2/5 (this review didn’t make it into Narc, it was too shit to warrant the space)
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